Productivity in lockdown...?
Updated: May 27
Becci was furloughed from her job as a content designer, and has been navigating the change from working (busily!) from home to having time on her hands. We asked her how she's managed the change in pressure, and what the impact has been - check out her article below!
Why has it taken me so long to write this article?
Before my office closed, an ordinary workday would see me finish a piece like this as well as maintaining website content, building marketing emails and responding to a hectic inbox. This has been my sole project, yet I spent three days approaching my laptop and getting nowhere. I’ve been opening new Word documents and launching into drafts that don’t feel right before shutting down to watch three more episodes of Tiger King.
This isn’t like me at all. When I studied Creative Writing, I used to amaze my course-mates no end by expelling two thousand-word short stories overnight with a scarily short drafting process. This is a skill that took me right into my Content career, where producing written work on a tight deadline is just part and parcel of my job description. I hadn’t gone this long with a brief and have nothing to show for it.
Ironically what I set out to write about is productivity during lockdown.
While many of us have more time on our hands and a smaller workload, it’s a bit of a wonder that we may find ourselves accomplishing fewer items on our to-do lists than when we were going about our usual busy lives.
Our newfound leisure is not a holiday though; this extra time and less accountability is not on our own terms. We’re also dealing with ever-changing world events as we’re getting used to a completely new way of life. As we all adjust to our new normal, our processes are bound to slow down.
If you find, like me, your focus is slipping right now, there are a few things to bear in mind…
Communicate your needs
Unless all your colleagues are in the same house share, all of us have had to adjust to zooming, slacking and… Lord help us… emailing everyone as a primary means of communication at work. Conversations in person where ideas flow and misunderstandings never last long now have to contend with your webcam’s video delay.
Even with a reduced workload, these little hindrances make working from home stressful, so make sure you’re taking the time to ask for help, clarification or direction when you need it. If it’s a situation where you would normally ask them in person then it’s probably a good idea to reach out digitally, no matter how small the issue.
Make time for self-care
For some of us it’s bubble baths and scented candles, for others it’s destroying your enemies in Halo 3. Self-care looks different to everybody but it’s important that you carve yourself some time for it outside of work. Turn off the news, mute your inbox and get down to something you really enjoy.
Time away from your desk or your chores is not just a break: you come back to your task with fresh eyes and renewed vigour.
It also interrupts the circular thinking that prevents you from finding new solutions, which makes a project less likely to be abandoned.
Equally important is making time for things in life that may not be as fun but just as necessary for your mental health. Self-care is also doing things like keeping on top of your bills, doing a three-day pile of washing up and making sure you keep as healthy as you can. Pleasant distractions are great, but so is biting the bullet to do the stuff you’re avoiding. Mustering up the will to tackle those things also makes that bubble bath twice as worth it.
Cut yourself some slack
We are living through a time like few have seen in living memory. If your focus and productivity slip, it’s a perfectly normal response to living with this level of change and uncertainty.
If you’ve woken up five minutes before logging on to remote working instead of maintaining your sleep schedule, that’s OK. We may not all be doing yoga with the sunrise, keeping our shoes on in our home office or joining a virtual coffee morning, but that doesn’t make us any less of a worker. Keep your trackies on if it works for you… no one can see that on Zoom.
Even those of us who have been furloughed can feel the pressure. Aside from the sense that we should always be doing something, we are being bombarded by suggestions for courses, volunteering or hobbies to take up now we have all this free time. If all you want to do is keep yourself safe and rested until this blows over, that has worth too.
Didn’t do everything you had hoped today? Whenever you look at your task or project in front of you and it just seems impossible, just take it one step at a time.
Just because it’s not happening for you right now, doesn’t mean it never will. If your line manager can wait for those figures, they can wait. If that deadline can be extended, extend it. If you’ve burned all your mental resources, then tomorrow is as good a day as today. If you have a goal, getting it done as quickly as possible doesn’t make it more valuable than if you took your time and came out on the other side in one piece.
Just look at this article. At first your author was stumbling along, labouring keystroke after keystroke, before all these ideas fell into place.
Some may consider writing just under a thousand words in three days as not very productive. My answer is: I never gave up and I got it done. Nothing else should define what my accomplishment is worth.